Two New Jersey-based nursing home companies have filed a lawsuit using a federal law usually employed to fight the mob in their battle against a union seeking to represent workers at some of the companies’ facilities, reports NorthJersey.com.
Nursing home operator CareOne and its affiliate, HealthBridge Management LLC, have filed a lawsuit against 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East claiming violations of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in what effectively amounts to “economic terrorism,” according to a joint statement.
The 1970 RICO law allows for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts carried out as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise. It is usually used to combat organized crime and the mafia’s infiltration of legitimate businesses.
The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in federal court in Newark, targets 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the union seeking to represent workers at three of the 29 New Jersey nursing homes operated by CareOne and its affiliate, HealthBridge Management LLC.
Workers at Woodcrest Health Care Center in New Milford voted to join the union in March, but the company is challenging the outcome. Union elections are also being disputed at two other CareOne-affiliated homes in Somerset and Morris counties.
Also named as a defendant in the suit is a sister union, SEIU Healthcare 1199 NE, which represents workers who have been on strike for three months at five Connecticut nursing homes operated by HealthBridge.
The lawsuit filed this week alleges that the unions “have abandoned traditional organizing methods and contract negotiations in favor of extortion and other criminal and fraudulent tactics.” The companies are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, claiming the protracted battles with the unions have resulted in damages in the millions of dollars.
The suit is not about collective bargaining or other traditional labor activity, the two companies say in a joint statement, “but instead involves what is effectively economic terrorism,” with a goal of ending “the campaign of extortionate demands and myriad unlawful tactics used against the companies by the two affiliates.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace